Making a case for strong atheism.

In my recent posts I have taken on a broad definition of atheism.  Here I will make a case for strong atheism, or the position that God does not exist.

Although I have earlier proposed that atheism is the null-hypothesis, I will here maintain that a case can still correctly be made for strong atheism.

This is possible where the characteristics of God have been well-defined, for example:

  • a) God is omnipotent.
  • b) God is omnipresent.
  • c) God is omniscient.
  • d) God is all-loving.
  • etc.

God then can only exist if the following requirements a, b, c, d, etc. are met. In other words, God is a set of these characteristics, and if one is missing, then by definition God does not exist; ie:

  • Definition: God is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient.
  • Observation: Candidate A is omnipotent, ominipresent, but not omniscient.
  • Conclusion: Candidate A is not God.

The problem with having a strict definition for God in such a way is twofold:

  1. The theist can then argue that our conception that God is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, etc. may be incorrect.
  2. The theist can also argue that God is not bounded by logic.

In either of these cases the atheist may respond that God is therefore a meaningless term, and that the cases presented by theists can all consequently be dismissed via the same method of (non)reasoning; eg. God is not necessarily omnipresent because the definition of God remains uncertain.

So I will adhere to the definition that God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent (etc) because it is solely upon these assumptions that theists make their arguments.

The case for strong atheism can therefore be made.

For starters, ask the question: is it possible to disprove the existence of a celestial teapot?  How could we disprove such a thing if we have not tread the entire universe?  I suggest two approaches:

  1. By finding logical contradictions, such as it can be proven that a square circle cannot exist, as the characteristics of a square and a circle are well-defined and a square circle can be shown to have logical contradictions. Or;
  2. By taking a probabilistic approach, for example if a phenomenon, such as the origin of life, can be said to occur naturally, God would not be required in the equation.

An example of an application of 1) follows:

Let’s assume there’s a God.
Point 1: Things are here.
Point 2: God did/does things.
Point 3: This means God is acting towards a conclusion; a goal.
Point 4: Which means things weren’t perfect to begin with.
Point 5: But what was there to begin with? Just God.
Conclusion 1: A perfect God cannot exist. God acting to a conclusion cannot be perfection as a conclusion would be God’s means to fulfill perfection.
Point 6: If a perfect God existed, he would have simply been and that would be that.
Conclusion 2: If your definition of God is that he is perfect then God does not exist. Since things are; things have happened, there is no God.

– Dakota Spann, “Another Reason Why God Cannot Exist”

Or any of the other paradoxes on omnipresence, omnipotence, omniscience, free-will, etc.

Approach 2) can be achieved by assessing the nature of religious claims, as each religion is more often than not to have clearly defined their gods, eg. Yahweh answers prayers, etc.

The important thing is to remember that it is not necessarily impossible to prove a negative.  In this example, it is proven that there is no greatest prime:

  • Assume that prime numbers are finite and that “P” is the largest prime. For the sake of example, let’s say the largest prime number is P = 7. That would mean that 2, 3, 5, and 7 are the only prime numbers, and 7 is the largest of them; that there are no prime numbers bigger than 7.
  • Create a new number, “Q”, by multiplying all the known primes together, and adding “1″. e.g. Q = (2 * 3 * 5 * 7) +1 = 211
  • Divide Q by any of the known prime numbers. It will never divide evenly and always have a remainder of “1″. e.g. 211/2 = 105R1, 211/3 = 70R1, 211/5 = 42R1, and 211/7 = 30R1
  • If a number is indivisible by any primes, that means that it, itself, is a prime number.
  • P = 7 cannot be the largest prime because Q = 211 is larger than P and is prime. This is true for any value of P.
  • Therefore, there cannot be a largest prime. Reductio Ad absurdum, our initial assumption that there can be a “largest” prime is incorrect. The prime numbers go on forever.
  • In the other case, the negative may not be as easy to prove:

    For instance, “there are no big green Martians” means “there are no big green Martians in this or any universe,” and unlike your bathtub, it is not possible to look in every corner of every universe, thus we cannot completely test this proposition–we can just look around within the limits of our ability and our desire to expend time and resources on looking, and prove that, where we have looked so far, and within the limits of our knowing anything at all, there are no big green Martians. In such a case we have proved a negative, just not the negative of the sweeping proposition in question.

    – Richard Carrier, “Proving a Negative”

    But in conclusion, as long as theists continue to define God by certain characteristics, and as long as they continue to form their arguments on the propositions that God is omnipotent, omnipresent, etc, a case for strong atheism can surely be made.